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Report: South Bend’s Poor Residents Say ‘Mayor Pete’ Abandoned Them

Peter Buttigieg / YouTube
• April 26, 2019 3:05 pm

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South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has touted his leadership in revitalizing his small Indiana town while making the case to Democratic primary voters that he has what it takes to be president. Though Buttigieg has won over the media with his proficiency in useless languages, a recent report from CNBC suggests his actual record as mayor leaves much to be desired.

"At a time when economic inequality and racial justice are at the nation’s political forefront, Buttigieg’s candidacy could be hamstrung by the impression that he has not tried hard enough to improve the conditions of South Bend’s poor and minority communities," the report reads.

Buttigieg, who has apologized for saying "all lives matter" in 2015 while discussing a policing controversy in South Bend, has made great strides in revitalizing the city's upscale downtown areas, but is perceived by some as having neglected poorer neighborhoods. Recent survey data found that more than half of South Bend residents said their neighborhoods hadn't improved over the previous five years. Buttigieg has been in office since January 2012.

Residents such as Shawn White, a 24-year-old African American, said that while they remember seeing Buttigieg's mayoral predecessor, Steve Luecke, visiting their neighborhoods, the current mayor has been a no show. "I ain’t ever seen the dude," White told CNBC. "Tell him to chill with us for three or four days."

White said "ain't s—t changed" since Buttigieg was elected. "How is he gonna run the whole country if you can’t even get your city right first?"

Shortly after taking office, Buttigieg announced a pledge to tear down or fix up nearly all of South Bend's vacant homes in distressed areas, and while many residents are glad to see the abandoned houses gone, some are critical of what they see as the city's lack of planning with respect to rebuilding.

The campaign has created health scares as old houses believed to contain lead paint and asbestos are demolished, showering the surrounding areas with clouds of harmful dust. Some of the abandoned lots have become overgrown and are used as dumping grounds.

"There has been some constant complaints, especially from the African-American community, about families that were hurt or felt impacted by the vacant and abandoned [properties] task force," said Kathy Schuth, a local community development advocate. "I do think that the city is aware of the problem. I don’t think that anyone has an answer."

Regina Williams-Preston, a member of the South Bend's Common Council, agreed. "I think that there just wasn’t a clear understanding of the domino effect—the true impact of what the actions were going to be throughout the neighborhood," she said. "We basically traded one problem for another."